This section discusses lifestyle factors that contribute to the health and wellbeing of a woman and her baby during pregnancy. Recommendations are based on evidence about the health risks and benefits associated with a range of lifestyle factors.
The summary of advice on lifestyle considerations during pregnancy considered a priority for inclusion in these Guidelines. Advice on immunisation during pregnancy is included in the Australian Immunisation Handbook.
Summary of advice for women about lifestyle considerations during pregnancy
- Eating the recommended number of daily serves of the five food groups and drinking plenty of water is important during pregnancy
- Additional serves of the five food groups may contribute to healthy weight gain in women who are underweight but these should be limited by women who are overweight or obese
- Small to moderate amounts of caffeine are unlikely to harm the pregnancy
- Low to moderate-intensity physical activity during pregnancy has a range of benefits and is not associated with negative effects on the pregnancy or baby
- Smoking and passive smoking can have negative effects on the pregnancy and the baby
- Not drinking alcohol is the safest option for women who are pregnant
- Illicit substances and non-medical use of medications (eg opioids) have negative effects on the pregnancy and the baby
Preventive health interventions
- Folic acid taken preconception and in the first trimester reduces the risk of a baby having neural tube defects and a supplement of 500 mcg a day is recommended
- Supplements of vitamins A, C and E are not of benefit during pregnancy and may cause harm
- Increasing intake of iron-rich foods reduces the risk of iron deficiency
- Unnecessary iron supplementation offers no benefit and has side effects at higher doses
- For women with low dietary intake, intermittent supplementation is as effective as daily supplementation in preventing iron-deficiency anaemia, with fewer side effects
- For women with identified iron-deficiency anaemia, low-dose supplementation is as effective as high dose, with fewer side effects
- For women with low dietary intake and high risk of pre-eclampsia, increased intake of calcium-rich foods or supplements may be beneficial
- Iodine requirements increase during pregnancy and a supplement of 150 micrograms a day is recommended.
- Use of medicines should be limited to circumstances where the benefit outweighs the risk
- Herbal medicines should be avoided during pregnancy
- Good oral health is important to a woman’s health and treatment can be safely provided during pregnancy.
- Sexual intercourse in pregnancy is not known to be associated with any adverse outcomes.
- Correct use of three-point seatbelts during pregnancy is to have the belt ‘above and below the bump, not over it’.
- Long-distance air travel is associated with an increased risk of venous thrombosis.
- Pregnant women should discuss considerations such as air travel, vaccinations and travel insurance with their midwife or doctor if they are planning to travel overseas
- If a pregnant woman cannot defer travel to malaria-endemic areas, she should use an insecticide-treated bed net.
- Some medications to prevent malaria can be safely used in pregnancy.
- ATAGI (2017 update) Australian Immunisation Handbook. 10th edition. Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation. Canberra: Department of Health.